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Census shows family sizes are still declining – but at a slower pace

New data shows the average number of children in an Irish family is today 1.38.

Image: Childrens Book Review via Creative Commons/Flickr

THE AVERAGE SIZE of families in Ireland is continuing to decline – but at a slower pace than previous years – according to census data released today.

The figures show that the average number of children in each family is now 1.38 – a drop from 1.41 in 2006. However, the decrease observed in the census taken last year was less pronounced than data seen in censuses from 1991 to 2006, according to the report.

The number of families with four or more children has remained relatively stable over the period examined by the most recent census, with 64.2 per cent of families being made up in this way in 2011 in comparison with 64.7 per cent in 2006.

Meanwhile, the average number of children per family in 2011 remained unchanged from 2006 at 1.4, while the number of one-child families increased by 13 per cent.

Data showed there were 1,592 families with seven or more children in Ireland.

Couples and lone parents

Of the 1.18 million families in Ireland, 143,600 were comprised of cohabiting couples, according to the report. The majority of these couples had no children (58 per cent) but the average the number of children in this family type was observed to be rising – with 0.7 children per cohabiting couple in 2011, up from 0.6 in 2006.

The report noted that in general co-habiting couples are younger than married couples.

Meanwhile, 87 per cent of lone parent families were headed by mothers, with two-fifths of lone parents being single and just under a quarter widowed.

Some 31.8 per cent of lone parents were separated or divorced – an increase from 29.8 per cent in 2006.

The census found that there were 4,042 same-sex couples living together in Ireland, with 2,321 being male and 1,721 being female. Some 230 same-sex couple had children, the vast majority of which were women.

Most same-sex couples (3,876) were cohabiting, however 166 indicated that they were married. The report notes that, as same-sex civil unions had only recently been introduced in Ireland at the time of the census, it is likely that most of these couples were married abroad.

Fertility

Despite the high number of births in recent years, the report notes this is not an indicator of any change in the underlying fertility rate – saying that increased birth were due to a simple increase of women of “peak” child-bearing age (25 – 39 years old).

The biggest increases in numbers of children were among women in their thirties: this number rose 11 per cent from 460,095 in 2006 to  510,879 in April 2011. The average age of a mother for births registered in the three months around April 2011 was 31.8 years.

The counties with the highest birth rates were:

Offaly: 3.15 children per woman

Donegal: 3.12 children per woman

Monaghan: 3.11 children per woman

The areas with the lowest birth rates were:

Dún Laoghaire Rathdown: 2.44 children per woman

Dublin city: 2.47 children per woman

Galway city: 2.52 children per woman

Here are the highlights of Census 2011>

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